News / Featured / 16th January 2023
National Park recovers as new plants emerge
Research during the recovery phase of the Warrumbungle National Park has highlighted plant species not known in the park before the fire as well as geological information about the central valley.
Ten years after the devastating Wambelong bushfire, native species and visitor numbers in the Warrumbungle National Park have shown remarkable recovery.
Visitors are flocking to the park and animals and plants are thriving, with fantastic seasonal displays of wildflowers and waterfalls.
National Parks and Wildlife Service area manager, John Whittall said the Wambelong fire had significant impacts on the park and the broader community.
“It has been a long, hard road over the last 10 years replacing the infrastructure and facilities and helping the park to regenerate,” Mr Whittall said.
“We now have an incredibly high standard of visitor facilities, with more improvements still to come.”
The new and award- winning Warrumbungle National Park Visitor Centre has become a focal point.
“Visitors began returning to the park immediately after it reopened, and numbers have exceeded pre- Wambelong fire visitation for a number of years,” Mr Whittall said.
“In 2021 around 60,000 people visited the park, one of the highest levels on record, showing the park continues to be a major regional tourism asset and visitor destination for the Coonabarabran community.
“One of our visitors recently captured on camera the rare sighting of a koala at Crater Bluff."
“Koalas had already suffered a major regional decline pre-2013 and we had serious concerns about koalas being present in the park post-fire.
“Recent sightings such as this one have us cautiously optimistic,” Mr Whittall said.
Reconstruction of the walking track network has been extensive, involving countless hours and hard work in tricky terrain.
Crews rebuilt the iconic Grand High Tops walking track (along with its nine wooden bridges) as well as popular Fan’s Horizon, Gould’s Circuit, West Spirey, Nature Trail, Goorianawa, White Gum, Dagda, Western High Tops, Tara Caves and Bluff Mountain routes.
Other projects have seen replacement of amenities at Pincham, Wambelong and the Old Woolshed, replacement of water treatment works, rebuilding of staff quarters and feral animal control operations facilities, assistance with neighbour fencing, installation of 400 nest boxes, new directional and interpretive signage across the park, and the development of a new fire management strategy in consultation with local Rural Fire Service, volunteers and neighbours.
National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Blake McCarthy said the vegetation recovery had also been remarkable.
“For me, the most significant recovery seems to have come in early 2020, when it started raining and felt like it didn’t stop until the end of 2022.
“The abundance and diversity of flora and fauna seems to have exploded,” Mr McCarthy said.
“Right now the park looks great, with water flowing in all the creeks, and a vast array of wildflowers on display.”
Researchers have spent 10 years assessing the effects of the fire on flora and fauna recovery and regeneration.
Their work so far has indicated no net loss in biodiversity, but some changes in distribution, while recovery takes place.
Dr Liz Tasker is the principal scientist, Fire Ecology with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
Dr Tasker and her colleagues have been visiting Warrumbungle National Park regularly to conduct research into the recovery of vegetation.
“We’ve made some great discoveries during our research and saw a rapid recovery of most of the 650 species of native plants found within the park within a few years,” Dr Tasker said.
“We’ve found 14 new native species that were not known in the park before."
“Among these are two orchids, the Lemon- scented Leek Orchid and the Elephant’s Ears, which flower in response to fire.
“We’ve also seen a wide range of animals recover in numbers, not only common species for which the park is known, such as grey kangaroos and red- rumped parrots, but also threatened species such as squirrel gliders,” she said.
The results of the major post-fire research effort have been peer reviewed and published.
In addition, a new map of the park geology reveals that the central valley of the park is actually the crater of a volcano.
New research using laser imaging, detection, and ranging (LiDAR) technology has revealed that major erosion events like one that happened immediately after the fire, have occurred in the same landscape for millions of years.
Analysis of sediment cores from the ephemeral Dunphy Lake showed that the wetland is 18,000 years old and that fires of the scale of Wambelong have been occurring in the Warrumbungle Ranges for almost 2000 years.
After a decade of rebuilding, there is more to come. Mr Whittall said NPWS is now undertaking major upgrades to infrastructure which was not impacted by fire such as the toilet and shower complex and water supply at Camp Blackman, as well as key improvements to iconic walking tracks, and important upgrades to fire trails.
“With better facilities and more staff than ever before, the park will continue to support the economy of the region as we look forward to the next chapter,” Mt Whittall said.